Monday, January 20, 2014

Retro hot dog and eggplant dinner, 1963

It's a dinner worthy of Mad Men, albeit so unattractive looking in its casserole dish that I feel deeply compelled not to offer a photograph of it, substituting instead an arty-looking snap of one-sixth of an eggplant against the background of a pretty (and yes, retro) plate.

Our source: the Good Housekeeping Cookbook of 1963. Our chapter: "The Story of Meats," its subchapter, Frankfurters, appearing to be from the pen of someone moonlighting for the Hot Dog Advisory Board. Or maybe, in a plot twist worthy of Mad Men, sleeping with someone on the Hot Dog Advisory Board. "Today's hot dog is one of America's finest meats," Mlle. Anonymous assures us. "It's a combination of tender, lean, juicy meats and aromatic spices ... as fine for children as for grown ups ... they supply the same high-quality protein and meat values as roasts, chops, and steaks and are a very thrifty buy."

So be it. Our recipe: the very first in the subchapter's collection. "Franks Italian." We'll need:

1 medium eggplant
1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/3 cup salad oil (olive oil)
8 franks -- [do splurge, and use good kosher ones]
2 (8 oz.) cans tomato sauce [I used stewed tomatoes]
1 cup grated cheddar cheese [and I omitted this, since it seemed a gooey bit of overkill]

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Wash the eggplant and cut into 8 half-inch thick slices. Coat each slice with a mixture of flour, salt, and pepper. In hot oil, in skillet, saute eggplant until golden on both sides. (If you omit this step, and simply proceed with the recipe, your dinner will of course be gluten free.)

Place 4 of the eggplant slices side by side in a greased 13 x 9 x 2 pan. Place one frank, sliced in half lengthwise, atop each. Spread with one can tomato sauce, and sprinkle with half the cheese, if using. Repeat layers.

Bake 30 minutes, or until cheese [if using] is bubbly. Top with snipped parsley.

This is one of those meals that you look at aghast on the page, thinking how decidedly un-French it is. No cream, no herbs, no braising of this and simmering of that. No stock, no wine, no garlic or fresh little haricots verts. Rather, hot dogs, good Lord, and eggplant [and cheese] all jumbled up together until they bubble.

But then you make it, reasoning that this is after all Good Housekeeping, and the magazine has long been known for reliable recipes. It's certainly easy enough for a weeknight. And after you make it and set it on the table, you find that you and the family eat it and keep eating it, and before you know it, you are looking for a second helping because this actually tastes pretty good.

What wine do you pair with hot dogs and eggplant? No, seriously -- what do you pair with them?

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